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Beyond the News

Reevaluating Reaction Policies

University Business, June 2012
UC Davis demonstrators rallied a week after police pepper-sprayed peaceful demonstrators during an anti-Wall Street protest.
UC Davis demonstrators rallied a week after police pepper-sprayed peaceful demonstrators during an anti-Wall Street protest. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Ever since the University of California system was criticized for the campus police reaction to student protests in 2011—namely the use of pepper spray at UC Davis and batons at UC Berkeley—the system has been investigating and reevaluating its protest reaction policies.

Immediately following the pepper spraying incident, UC President Mark Yudof and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi created a task force, headed by Cruz Reynoso, chair of the UC Davis School of Law. Investigations into events and individuals involved have been ongoing. In a recently-released task force report, the investigators ruled that pepper spray should not have been used at UC Davis, that police officers weren’t trapped as they claimed, and that the students did not use violence.

One report also draws conclusions about how the system as a whole should operate, noting that changes in policing should be instituted systemwide, not only on the UC Davis campus. It recommends an immediate transition from 10 separate university police departments with their own leaders to a unified, standardized police force under a Chief Public Safety Administrator.

Anne Glavin, president-elect of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, says the key takeaway from these incidents, and other similar protest reaction incidents across the country, is determining where there was oversight in administration in event control. “One of the most important things is the communication that’s required at all stages of protest demonstration,” she says.

The incidents can serve as reminders for other institutions to look at, and possibly refresh, their protest reaction policies.

“It’s something that happens in our profession,” says Glavin. “When there’s a major incident you think, ‘Gee, if that happens to [us], are we ready?’”

The Campus Preparedness section of the IACLEA website features a resource center that shares best practices for dealing with protests and other unusual occurrences on campus

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